No Auto Insurance Coverage For Drive-By Shootings, But Possibly For Just About Anything Else That Happens Involving Use of a Car

A California Court of Appeal sitting in Los Angeles observed that just about anything that happens that involves use of a car and can be termed, in some sense, accidental, can potentially be covered by auto insurance. In Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club of Southern California v. Flores , the Court reviewed previous California cases that were found to be potentially covered under car insurance:

•  A man modified a handgun by filing down the trigger mechanism to make the gun fire on a “hair trigger.” The man was then driving his truck with the handgun inside, and turned off the road to chase down a rabbit he spotted. Shaken by the rough terrain, the modified handgun discharged, wounding the man’s passenger. The California Supreme Court held that the accidental shooting was covered by the man’s auto insurance.

•  A group of teenagers decided to while away the afternoon driving around throwing eggs at cars, homes and people. Driving at 40 miles an hour, one of them lobbed an egg at a pedestrian, striking him in the eye. In strict accord with the laws of physics, the impact of an egg flying at 40 miles an hour caused the pedestrian to lose his eye. The California Court of Appeal held the pedestrian’s claim was covered by the driver’s auto insurance, because it was negligent conduct involving the use of an automobile. The conduct was termed at least potentially “negligent” because no injury was intended by the teenagers

There are, however, limits to what may be covered under an auto insurance policy. The Court of Appeal found the limits in the Interinsurance Exchange case , in which the driver claimed the benefits of auto insurance after being the wheel man in a drive-by shooting. Sorry, said the Court of Appeal — when the insured acts deliberately to aid and abet a drive-by shooting, the car insurance company does not have to pick up the tab. Deliberately shooting at someone cannot be deemed to be merely “negligent” because inflicting injury is the only possible intent of the act. Other California cases are in accord with the concept that for auto insurance to apply, the occurrence must have somehow involved use of the car, as opposed to circumstances in which the car was simply the location in which something unfortunate happened.

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